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Grief Triggers

Naming our loss and acknowledging its reality is the first task in our grief work. This is a powerful step because we stop continuing to deny it or to minimize its effect on us. However, naming a loss does not necessarily heal it. To heal our loss we have to go through the pain work. This means we have to allow ourselves to feel the feelings associated with the loss. Many of us have had extensive therapy and read many self help books and yet we still ask ourselves what is wrong with me? Why have I not got over this yet?

Grief work takes time. Our defenses of denial and the suppression of our feelings are hard walls that helped protect us when we were young. Now we begin to chip away at these walls allowing the pain to be released. Grief that festers inside our walls is like experiencing a long-term low-level fever. Sometimes it overwhelms us and we need to lay low or even take to our beds, but just having it there restricts our ability to live life to the fullest.​

There are certain triggers that make the fever spike so we feel worse than normal. These triggers are current experiences that bring up old memories and feelings from the past. A simplistic view of this idea is that if you have a feeling for longer than 15 minutes, it is rooted in the past. Once these triggers take hold and the fever hits a high temperature, old trauma may surface and lead us to believe it has something to do with our present circumstance, but it doesn’t.

We need to work through this grief and trauma so we don’t act out with self-defeating behavior. Seeking support can help us to allow these old feelings to emerge instead of turning to drugs, food, alcohol or some other behavior to medicate them. Share these triggers with someone you trust, a confidant, counselor, or fellow Miracle Worker.




Think of an incident when you had a powerful emotional reaction to something or someone and you felt overwhelmed with anger, hurt or abandonment. Explore the incident by answering the following questions:


  • Name the trigger that set off your powerful reaction

  • At what age did you feel this?

  • What happened to your body?

  • What did you do in response?

  • What were the feelings rooted in the past that you might have blocked with your behavior?

  • What was the original trauma that happened to you and to which you are reacting to in the present?

  • How did you feel better after the incident?


Once you can recall the moment your trigger went off, become aware of other times this has happened. Perhaps an interaction with your boss, the way a loved one spoke to you, or a specific incident. This is a skill that takes practice as you search for the precise trigger; becoming patient with yourself would be the kindest thing to do. You won’t be able to see the trigger ahead of time, only in hindsight.


As you begin to keep a record of triggers in your journal you can go through the above exercise and get to the heart of each one so you can change the rage or hurt into compassion for the child who still suffers. You will begin to see a pattern emerging and, in time, you’ll be able to catch yourself the moment the trigger has fired and you will have the clarity to make choices about how the trigger translates into thoughts and behavior.

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